The Hottest Spot to Hang Out

…is La Casa de Tontería (aka my home aka The House of Nonsense). Specifically, the road in front of my house.

I blame one of my frequent readers (but NEVER commenter) who asked me why I don’t write more about the Middle School Mafia. Not that he wants me to have trouble, but…

He jinxed me. Continue reading

Blight-ful neighbor…

…. versus spiteful neighbor.

I’ll take the former over the latter, but it’s difficult to put up with extra work. As of today, I have sprayed weed killer, trimmed overhanging branches, cleaned a section of gutter, and cut the sod to drain water away from his foundation.

I have written about how blight control forced the neighbor to clear out the dozen or more trash bags he had lined up along his house. Unfortunately, blight control laws don’t stop indoor squalor nor overgrown gardens (just the lawn proper).


Street-view of the front of the house, about two years ago. The window is full now and plants overgrew the porch.

The cute little house is full of trash. The lawn is still mowed by the same disbelieving landscaper, but the garden is overgrown with weeds, wild grape vines, and young trees. A maple sapling was allowed to sprout in the seam between the driveway and the house’s foundation.

The Middle School Mafia, who seem to sense when potential victims might be a tad ragey (to use a local term), pulled a subtle prank to test the waters. This past autumn, someone tossed a Nerf football onto the lawn, where it formed a lump under the snow and an annoyance to the other next-door neighbor when spring gusts rolled it across the property line. In the spring, a damaged kick-scooter was leaned against his mailbox, where it remained until another neighbor picked it up for scrap metal after a couple months.

Satisfied by inaction, the Middle School Mafia steer clear of it. Why waste eggs on someone who doesn’t clean it up? Why ring the doorbell on their way home before curfew if, like a tree falling in the forest, no one cares if it makes a sound?*

The neighbor lives elsewhere now, most likely driven out by his own squalor. He retrieves things from time to time, like the boat and trailer sitting in the driveway. On the bright side, whatever vermin infested his house** will find no fresh pickings.

But it is maddening when the taxable value of La Casa de Tontería increases. I asked the folks in the township office: How will the nearby neighbors sell their houses if it comes with the view of a derelict?

*My Old Man began teaching my elder brother and I philosophy with the classic question. As a result, we have a plethora of snide remarks about it.

**The other neighbors are convinced the uptick in cats was due to critter infestations.

Tochos…or notochos. That is the question.

I have noticed that several new blog-followers have been attracted by my entries about food. In the spirit of adventure, I dedicate this post to you, gentle readers.

Consider it a shakedown cruise to toughen your spirits.

As work winds down for another fiscal year,  the cafeteria at The Young Human Factory makes do with ingredients on hand. And whatever appeals to the collective tastebuds of developing hominids who have weird tastes.

They like Chicken Bowl and bags of Doritos filled with spiced hamburger, salsa casera, and cheese. They have been known to eat their boogers. (Thankfully, the latter have yet to appear on the menú del día.)


Behold the cuisine of the Young Humans and tremble!

So what the heck is that thing? I’m sure it has a name, like the Blob or the Thing You Eat Because It Smells Good.  The menu christens it “Totchos,” which is the eccentric child of Nacho and Tater Tot Dos-Cervezas.

The YHF version has four layers: a base of tater tots, seasoned beef, refríed beans (which spellcheck insists are “refereed beans” because it knows things), sour cream, and a garnish of cherry tomatoes.

“Did you eat that?” you may ask.

“Heck, yeah!” I may answer, using the lingo of the Middle School Mafia. I don’t think I will again, though.

Recommended Reading

The family history of Totchos.


Rain, rain, go away…


Darkness at noon, except for the brightness of flowers. Note the branches that have fallen due to storms.

La Casa de Tontería (the House of Nonsense to anglophones) sits not far outside the floodplain.* This spring has been unusually, if not historically, waterlogged. Oldsters talk of the high water levels of the ’80s, when kids walked onto their front lawns and splashed in knee high water because the St. Clair River passed over sea walls and crept up toward houses.

For me, it’s been a little inconvenient; e.g. changing clothes because my trousers were soaked to the knees when I retrieved my car from the impromptu creek alongside the house.  The rain has done amazing things for the garden. Already the rhubarb is enormous and the coral bells** overwhelm their pots.

But lately it’s like living in a rainforest, particularly today when two separate thunderstorms turned afternoon to twilight. The winds sent the helicopter-like maple seeds and clumps of green leaves plummeting onto walks and decks. The gutters are being force-cleaned as the sheer volume of water pushes everything else out. The recycling crew is picking up bins grown heavier with of sodden paper products.

The Middle School Mafia has been watching the skies and weather forecasts anxiously. Not only does lightning curtail their usual street carousing, but Tuesday is their end-of-year trip to the beach. Their principal already warned then that if they got any new suspensions (the old being Water Under the Bridge), they would be stuck in the Factory with… me.

Yes, I am the designated hitter*** for my brave colleagues who are chaperoning the trip.


* A few years after getting the Mortgage, I anxiously waited for the FEMA-redrawn flood maps. Those few yards have meant no flood insurance requirement for me.

** Heuchera americana and a variety called “Starry night” if I recall.

***This is a baseball term. No actual Young Humans will be harmed.

Factory Traditions

The Young Human Factory (where I work as a quality inspector) has several unique traditions. I was recently reminded of a major one. After the senior widgets’ final examination, the Big Boss makes an announcement that they must leave the Factory.

Some special widgets are taken aside and especially reminded that henceforth, they can be charged with trespassing.

To my readers with widgets enduring their final tests before leaving the production line, good luck!

Hotter than a black squirrel on asphalt!

Because there are no tin roofs for cats around these parts.

It’s 95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) in the shade, plus 57% humidity. The temperature is still climbing.

I was in the backyard a few minutes ago and not a soul is outside except for one plucky Middleschooler on a four-wheeler. He was wearing a helmet and swimwear.  I suspect it may be part of the initiation into the Middle School Mafia.

“You will go out on a heat advisory day….”

“Dude, I got this.”

“…on a four-wheeler that’s been baking in the sun…”

“Okay, dude.”

“…and catch black squirrels…”

“Uh, dude…?”

“…and put them in your swim trunks…”


“…and jump in the river.”

“Aww, dude… Let me grab my helmet.”

Hell on Wheels!

The Middle School Mafia has taken to the roads. Motorbikes and 4-wheelers are flying down the street from mid-morning until dusk. I had to go onto the porch yesterday to evil-eye them as they decided to pull up onto the neighbor’s lawn (strategically, the section with a stand of trees blocking the neighbor’s view).

Several years ago a similar band of mobile middle schoolers ran the blacktop. However, I don’t think this group has the audacity to come up to me and boldly request gasoline when their tanks run dry. (Not a joke; the previous gang had wretched ideas about what complete strangers owed them.)

I suspect the road-running will wane when the summer gas prices rise and parents need to budget for their weekend boating. In the meantime, vroom! Vroom!

April… erm, May Update

It’s been a while. Life at The Young Human Factory has flooded over into el ocio (edit: leisure. My brain is not wanting to English today.) I enjoyed a lovely luncheon on Cinco de Mayo in honor of my aunt’s birthday.

However, when I take a weekend off, I must pay with another. This weekend is devoted to lawncare and catching up at work.

But all is not bleak. Below are highlights from the previous month. Continue reading

Out of the Mouth of Middle School Mafiosi

I have been pleasantly surprised by the members of the Middle School Mafia who are under my control supervision at The Young Human Factory.  I have only twice been subjected to rage and unspoken threats, and one of those came from a parent.

In fact, they show a delightful willingness to throw themselves into the deep end of the pool of knowledge and understanding. The following are first-semester highlights:

  • “I am good at spelling, reading and riting.” (On a very confident self-assessment!)
  • “Do ‘women of color’ come in all colors or just some colors?” (Asked by a student categorized as POC and when the term was explained, said dubiously, “Isn’t that racist?”)
  • A drawing of a girl and a bucket of water. (A response to “What image comes to mind when you think of the protagonist? Write a brief response.”)
  • “Is there a movie of this book?” – pause to hear “no” – “We should read another book.” (This was followed by an explanation of how tech-using kids today need to have audio and visual versions because reading letters on a page is something people did before the invention of cellphones.)

The Factory is not closed for me…

As faithful readers may remember, my job as a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory underwent a transformation this fall. I was put in charge of teaching English to members – or potential members – of the Middle School Mafia. A daunting task, but I am buoyed by the vision of them communicating without grunts, egg-flinging, and ritualistic doorbell-ringing.

For the same low price, I now deliver eight more hours a week of service AND the daily 53 minutes of preparation time was eliminated. But it has really helped my time management, since I have so little.

Weekends are not my own, nor vacations. Continue reading